Wikimedia press releases/Dealing With Media

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Dealing with Press[edit]

Dealing with a press person can be at times stressful and even intimidating. However, it does not have to be, if you are familiar with the following procedures. Additionally, most reporters are very down to earth and direct, and you might find that you actually enjoy talking to the press.

Golden Rule[edit]

Reporters live by deadlines. Promptly return phone calls and never make a promise you cannot keep. If you make a promise you cannot keep, inform the reporter immediately. Also, go out of your way to be helpful.


Before you talk to a reporter you must be prepared![edit]

If a reporter calls you and you are not prepared, or you do not know the answer to his question, its totally acceptable, and preferable, to tell them that you are not sure, and will get back to them. Some reporters may try to put you under pressure and insist they need an answer right there and then. Simply tell them you need a few minutes to check some facts or with the board. Also, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER lie. This does not mean that you have to divulge information you are not comfortable with sharing. Keep in mind that by the time they contact you, they already have a line or angle they intend to take. You need to be clear of what that angle is.


Things to find out[edit]

  1. What publication, radio, or TV station they are writing for, What type of audiences does the publication/TV/Radio station target? (You can ask Sandy to do the research)
  2. What exactly they want know, and WHY.
  3. What caused them to do the story, and who else they might speak to about this issue.
  4. Their deadline.


Specify On Record/Off Record/On Background[edit]

Before you begin talking to a reporter make sure that you specify whether you are talking:

  • On the Record – This means that they can quote you in an article.
  • Off the Record - This means that they cannot any information you provide them in their article.
  • On Background – This means that they can use the information you provide them in their article, but they cannot quote you directly.

Remember, that unless you state otherwise, a reporter will assume you are talking “on the record” and any thing you say can appear in print. You also have the right, at the end of the interview, to ask what quotes they will be using, and make sure they quoted you correctly. (Most reporters write in short hand, so if you are talking about a sensitive matter, its advisable you check that they quoted you correctly) Also, don’t go “off the record” to offer a personal opinion. While most reporters will respect your “off the record”, there are no rules set in stone, and journalists are not obliged to respect your request.

Always Respect a Reporters’ Deadlines![edit]

Find out their deadline, and always make sure you can deliver. Its better to NOT make any promises, than make promises you cannot keep. Additionally, if you feel as though you cannot meet the deadline you promised, make sure to inform the reporter right away.

Be Yourself[edit]

Always be yourself. Don’t compromise who you are, because you think you have to act a certain way. You are great being you. At the same time, make sure that you are always polite, knowledgeable, and sincere….and stay positive!!!


Get Key Message Across[edit]

The key to a successful public relations campaign is to constantly repeat a few key messages until they stick. A list of messages can be found here, m:Wikimedia_press_releases/Facts_&_Figures (More will be added over time.) Try to include them in the interview as much as possible.

Speak Simply & Provide figures and facts & Avoid Speculation[edit]

Don’t use jargon, unless you are talking to a publication where readers will understand the jargon. Try to speak with sentences that are short, direct and to the point. Essentially, you want to have some “Soundbites” that the press can use. (More on this in the future.) Additionally, try to use as many facts and figures. (some listed above) Avoid speculating.

Anticipate the Negatives[edit]

It is important that you understand criticisms, and are prepared to have an answer for any negatives that may come up. Sandy will have a list of criticisms and our response in the future.


Avoid no Comment[edit]

Reporters may feel as though you have something to hide. Simply, address the question as best you can. (without divulging information you are not comfortable divulging). And if you are not sure of the answer, be honest and tell them you will get back to them.


Thank Them[edit]

If they print a good story, try to contact them to thank them.